Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Synopsis of Toy
“Heroes in a Half Shell”
Here’s an exercise to help you build the next great kiddie fad: Take any four things that all kids like and/or want to be, put them together, and see how it sounds. Rock Star Astronaut Mad Scientist Bugs. Ballerina Princess Mermaid Ponies. Sounds silly? Well, it’s no more so than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and we all know how that little experiment turned out.
Ninja Turtles Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Raphael first came to life in a black-and-white comic book by co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in the early 80’s. They (the turtles, not Eastman and Laird) lived in sewers, loved pizza, partied hard, talked like surfer dudes, and studied ninjitsu under the guidance of mutated rat-man Splinter. And then they hit television. 1987 brought the debut of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles syndicated cartoon, and with it, a horde of new fans to the kick-fighting amphibians.
A year after the Turtles’ TV debut, the gang showed up in action figure form. Each of the four turtles was available (distinguishable by the choice of weapon, color of mask, and originally by skin tone), as were Splinter, news reporter/turtle buddy April O’Neil and the Turtles' arch-nemesis, evil ninja Shredder, among others. With these little rubber and plastic replicas of their favorite TV stars in hand, kids were able to recreate the ninja action and snappy banter of the show. Some got a little too into it and started kicking younger siblings in true Michaelangelo form, but the toys themselves were relatively harmless.
In 1990, the Turtles hit the big screen in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (the first of three), and their popularity skyrocketed. Not only were more figures produced—everyone from hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones to mutant henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady—but the Turtles were given new features and accessories that ranged from the armored Party Wagon to a floating Sewer Party Tube. The Turtles were re-imagined as “Sewer Sports All-Stars,” as “Rock Turtles” and even as big-haired Trolls. Beyond that, the four teen mutants and their co-stars graced breakfast cereals, snack foods, sleeping bags, video games and anything else a turtle could possibly fit on.
The Ninja Turtles were marketing giants for the first half of the 1990’s, but kids were starting to get their kicks from the Zord-fueled Power Rangers. Don, Mike, Leo and Raph attempted to hold onto the top spot with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation series of toys and cartoons, but their day in the sun (or the sewer, as the case may be) had passed for the moment. Kids still like ninjas, they still like turtles, they still like mutants, and they still want to be teenagers, so there may be hope for a comeback yet. Until then, maybe someone should try marketing Tank-Driving Fireman Slime Monkeys.